Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sakura's Kitchen, Guam

I try to make it a point to check the local dining scene each time I travel to a new place. Fortunately, a good friend and fellow foodie is currently based in Guam - she pointed me in the direction of some of her favorite local restaurants. Sakura's Kitchen was at the top of her list for Japanese fare.

Located along Marine Corps Drive, Guam's main road (my friend described it as their version of EDSA), Sakura's Kitchen is quite non-descript. 

The interiors are no-nonsense (I was warned to not expect ambience), but the place was filled with locals and Japanese patrons when we visited.

Sakura's Kitchen has a rather extensive menu - they have everything from salads to soups to appetizers to sushi to various set menus and bento boxes, all of which are listed next to photographs.

I started with a Tuna & Avocado Salad (US$8.90). This was excellent, though the portion was much larger than I expected. The tuna was fresh, and the avocado in the perfect stage of ripeness. I enjoyed assembling a perfect bite of tuna, avocado, lettuce, cucumber and tobiko (flying fish roe), all lightly coated with the salad's sesame dressing. The flavors and textures blended well together - the tender tuna, plus the buttery avocado and crisp greens made for a wonderful starter. The most exciting thing for me was realizing that I can recreate this salad back home - all the ingredients can be found at local groceries and Japanese specialty stores.

As expected, my dad scoured the menu for anything soft shell crab and proceeded to order Spider Roll (US$11.95). Sakura's version has both soft shell crab tempura and shredded kani (imitation crab meat), along with avocado. I would have preferred this dish without the kani - I think the real crab, plus the avocado and maybe another textural or flavor element like pickeld daikon (radish) or denbu (pink cod powder) would have been better. I've had much better versions in Manila - for instance, the one at Kai - so perhaps a more localized sushi creation such as Sakura's Guam Roll might have impressed me more.

For my main, I had the Karaage Set (US$9.45)- Japanese-style friend chicken served with miso soup, rice, a side salad and a few pieces fruit. Much like the salad, this dish was huge and could easily have fed two people. The chicken was tender and well-cooked, but it lacked a bit of flavor. The batter was simply a bit garlicky. A ponzu dipping sauce would have helped, but I settled for some soy sauce and lemon.

The rest of the table ordered Shrimp Tempura + Teriyaki Chicken Bento Boxes (US$11.45) for their mains. The boxes are quite large, and the servings very generous - this is actually more than a complete meal.

My beverage for the night - Choya Plum Wine (US$7). A friend introduced me to plum wine back in my NYC days, and I've since grabbed every opportunity to have a glass at Japanese restaurants. It's a bit of an acquired taste - sweet and sour, a bit similar in flavor to Chinese preserved plum (aka champoy).

My take on Sakura's Kitchen: I wasn't overwhelmed, but the food wasn't bad either. Have the Tuna & Avocado Salad, then stick to the basics beyond that - tempura, teriyaki and the usual rolls. Given the large servings, this a relatively good value restaurant as well. 

All that said, the night before our visit to Sakura, my Guam-based friend actually took me to Benii, another Japanese restaurant across the street, as Sakura was full. I actually much preferred the food there. My friends ordered Deep Fried Squid Legs and Salmon Salad, which I got to try and really enjoyed. I had a bowl of Chirashi, which had nice, fresh seafood over a just-right portion of sushi rice. If I find myself back in Guam, I'll probably return to Benii rather than Sakura's Kitchen.

Sakura's Kitchen
Pacifica Plaza
667 N. Marine Corps Drive
Upper Tumon, Guam

Suite 120 Star Building,
888 Marine Corps Drive 
Upper Tumon, Guam


  1. Just a quick no judgment tip - Don't refer to people as Nationals. :)

    1. Apologies if you found the term offensive. I've updated per your tip. Thanks!